Today’s post was written by David Langbart, archivist in Research Services at the National Archives at College Park, MD.
The White House receives many inquiries and comments from Congress and the public. In today’s world, the President’s White House public engagement and communications staffs handle much of the work of responding to those missives. In the past, however, most of that work was farmed out to the various agencies in the Executive Branch.
Inquiries relating to the work and activities of a particular agency were referred to that agency either for a direct reply (“The President asked me to respond . . .”) or to prepare a reply to be sent by the President or other official in the White House. The White House had exacting standards, so approval from that source carried weight. In June 1953, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles learned that the White House was pleased with that work carried out by his agency. As the following memorandum shows, he shared the good words he had received with his subordinates.
[I have been informed by the White House that letters to private organizations and individuals which have been drafted in the Department of State for the signature of the President are “uniformly excellent” in substantive quality and style. This means that letters drafted in the Department do not have to be redrafted in the White House, thus saving considerable time and effort. The White House staff appreciate this performance, which they say is outstanding among the Executive Departments.
Please convey my appreciation to the drafting officers in your areas for this record of good staff work.]
Source: John Foster Dulles, Memorandum to All Assistant Secretaries, June 16, 1953, file 110.101/6-1653, 1950-54 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of state.
Featured Image: Photograph of Dwight D. Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles, Aug 3, 1956 (NAID 594345, Local Identifier 72-1815-5)